27 thoughts on ““Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?” Understanding Domestic Violence

  • September 14, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    I stayed too long scared of what he would do if I left he always made it clear he would take the kids. I decided that could never happen I was such a great mom. He vowed to destroy me so when my child got lyme and missed school he set out to take my children. These abusers are so able to manipulate control entice seduce and make anyone believe they are the most concerned responsible person ever born. I was feeling accused trying to help my child and with no due process my children were given to him. He continues to use them to hurt me has turned them against me. My family is completely destroyed. I should have stayed and took my chances at least I could help my kids. Now they are motherless. Just in case you think good mothers don’t lose their children like I did, look at the protective mother’s alliance and many other groups for mothers who lose their children to abusers. There is no co parenting just destruction and pain. No one protects the children’s rights to have both parents and my parental rights don’t exist. Yes in America. I cry all the time and the pain is unbearable. I was their caregiver 24 hrs a day til ages 8 and 11 when they were forced to forget their mommy. This is just one fear of leaving death is another. They always get back at you if you disobey them and its worse than you think it will be.

    • September 17, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Hello Marilyn…I’m sorry to read that u lost ur children I cannot imagine what that must feel like, but you cannot give up trying to have visitation let alone trying to regain co-parenting rights…my heart goes out to you….from what you wrote I don’t see what u did to where a judge would give him full custody…Lyme disease should not be a basis for loosing children….presumably he is financially well-off and has access to legal resources. .I’m wondering, if you sought any form of therapy to help you cope with loosing the children, and to address the decision-making processes that were made in the beginning stages of the relationship with him. Introspective reflection conducted in a safe environment can help renew self esteem and confidence, and can help alleviate repeating past behavior in the present and
      future…take care…

  • September 14, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I was in this situation for 11 years. Finally when my kids were out of the house (the reason I stayed), I realized I was not strong enough. Treyce Montoya helped me a ton and I was able to get out and it’s been 4 years and I’m alive because of her!

  • September 17, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I greatly appreciate the contribution you are doing: this distinction between individualistic and community focused societies is exactly what was needed to clarify the debate. I was raised and married in a very collectivity-oriented society, but when I was desperately looking for external help to stop the beatings and rescue mi dignity in front of my five children, nobody dared to intervene. I went to the church and they told me to pray stronger, but the parish priest would not talk to my husband; I told his co-workers in the military where I went to deliver the weapon my husband was using to terrorize me with mock executions, and they didn’t say a word; I went to the police and they accused me of “ruining my husband’s career” and called him to pick me up. Beyond this explanation, I seriously believe that men are not yet in a situation to collectively challenge individual husband’s abuse because this means giving up their own imagined or real power. Finally, at my workplace a compassionate nurse told me about some medication widely used with no taste or odor, the number of drops to use(20) and I went home and gave this medication to my husband in his morning coffee, every day, for years. I can’t say that he became a loving, caring person, but at least the sudden violent attacks disappeared and I could finish raising my children.
    Of course, if I dare to share my solution here,in the US, people give me astonished looks…but, what is a woman to do under the conditions I was under? no money, with a large family…still I’m very grateful with this solution that helped me in the right moment, and controlled the unjust violence in the most silent way…

  • September 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I have a child and still decided to leave. I did it without financial help from anyone and I was a stay at home mother. So, i went back to work full time, put my child in daycare and 8 years later, I fully support myself and my child without help. It has been a rough 8 years, but my child and I have survived and are closer and stronger for it. So i am proof that it is possible to get out and be OK!

    It is my opinion that people are asking why certain women (football player girlfriends and wives) stay and I think the answer tends to lean towards “financial” or “lifestyle” reasons…but again, this is my opinion.

    There are places and people who can help you if you want to leave and feel like you can’t.

    • September 21, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      Good post. All the discussion about community gives people an opportunity to talk about abstract reasons for everything but in the case of abused women all to often it has been a matter of the woman being able to generate a good income and to make it on her own. Every young woman should be encouraged to get the education and training to never need a man for income.

      • October 31, 2014 at 8:04 pm

        Agreed!! Women, and men, should at least be able to make a decent living to support themselves, and that would eliminate so many problems. Young people have to understand the importance of not being dependant on someone else for their own support.

  • September 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Would someone please explain to me, or show me, where the definition of domestic violence is “a MAN mistreating a woman”. Every story, or article, I read contains the word “she”, as in “why doesn’t she just leave?” There are many forms of domestic violence, and there are MANY WOMEN guilty of it. I have seen footage in the past of a woman hitting a man with both hands while absolutely enraged, one of a woman hitting a man with a tennis racket because he laughed at her, and everyone laughed at these and commented how she was “whooping up on his a**”. If Ray Rice had not hit his girlfriend back (she did him first) would anything had been said about her hitting him? Men should not hit women, BUT, women also should not hit men. And, one should be held as accountable as the other, the women as well as the men. I was in an abusive relationship for 5 years, not physical, but many times I feared going to sleep because of comments made. I finally decided to leave, out of necessity, and had to leave my two small boys as well. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right decision. And, a friend of mine was not as lucky, Gus was stabbed 3 times in the chest after falling asleep on the couch while watching football, he did not survive the violence. When we are addressing “domestic violence”, stop with the idea that it is ONLY about men mistreating women, nothing is further from the TRUTH.

    • September 17, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Hi Randy, I encourage you to check out the second post in the series , which is actually linked to at the top of this article. I actually share the statistics about male and female abusers and talk about the different dynamics that show up there.

      • September 18, 2014 at 12:57 am

        Sara, it touches on a few of the things I mentioned, but at least it did that. It was nice to see that someone actually gave insight from “the other side”. The “mental” side of domestic violence can sometimes be worse than the physical side, and I believe my ex knew exactly that. She knew she could not continually hurt me physically, but she could absolutely “control me” with the threat of emotional duress. I was a young father with what every father dreamed of, two boys (aged 2 and 4). Not a day went by when I didn’t think of us playing ball together, going fishing, running errands together, just boys being boys. And then later going through the stages of them growing up and being there with them every step of the way. That’s what made the decision to leave so very hard, but it had to be…for the best for all 3 of us. I took NOTHING, except my clothes, and asked for nothing, I did not want anything to change for the boys, I did not want their home or surroundings to change. I would rather have been beaten within an inch of my life than to have to leave my boys, the problem was…SHE KNEW THAT. So, even though we were no longer together, she was able to continue with the “violence” in her own way, knowing that she was able to hurt me each and every day. And then, she “MOVED OUT OF STATE” with the boys a year later. I was able to see the boys, and spend time with them, while we all lived in the same area. I believe she realized this was easing the pain somewhat for me, so the next “punch” had to be thrown by moving them further from me. It’s a terrible form of “domestic violence”, but one that happens everyday, mental abuse.

  • September 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Leaving an abusive person is not easy. We are taught commitment (at least in my age group and older) and to give second chances. I have had 2 abusive marriages. I didn’t leave at the first sign of violent behavior because there were reasons why that had to do with the stress of the day. This of course evolved from his temper has nothing to do with me, to his tempers has nothing to do with me but I still get it.
    The first time was easy once the decision was made. No children and I made sure that he didn’t need me financially. The second time, was not so easy. I attempted it twice. The first time, I put it on hold due to an injury of his and I am not the kind of person to leave another like that completely without support. I also had active fibromyalgia at the time. After the nursing was done, he upped the rate and intensity of his verbal and mental abuse. He began to throw things at me. And he extorted money from me by threatening our dogs, by threatening to toss me out of the house. I went into remission for the FM, got the fibro fog out of my brain and finally left. Without a car, but for the first time in years, I felt safe. Getting the car took peer pressure from people who basically told him he was ruining his chances by the vindictive behavior.
    It took so long because of the money he extorted put “financial chains” on me and I declared bankruptcy in order to be financially stable enough to survive.

    People have all kinds of reasons for staying. What is important that they leave, no matter the reason.
    The world won’t look at them quite nicely for doing it- that bankruptcy is a reminder of what I had to do, what I went through when it pops up to haunt me. THere are times when you feel as though you are being punished for leaving. ANd the PSTD… well, another little blessing. Women don’t have that, you know.

    Those people have never been through it.

  • September 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    There are so many reasons why women stay in relationships where they are abused emotionally and or physically. The number one hits close to home for everyone if you can imagine yourself having a single major intimate relationship — and being faced with giving up what may be the only close relationship you have. If you have a background in your family of origin of having been -( name it) ignored, abused, abandoned, manipulated — well, those are the tools you have learned to apply to relationships. So obstacle one may be utter terror at being alone with absolutely no one who cares about you and no power to control your destiny. Many people who don’t understand this at all have supportive families of some sort and cannot imagine

    The you can add in material needs, and image, and the absolute danger – with a physical abuser – that he may try to kill you and/or your children if your actually leave. The threat is real – the point of leaving presents a bigger risk of violence than most people will ever have to face. A woman, with or without children, needs to have a safe haven to withdraw to, and may need a lot of assistance to find and set up a new home.

    Material needs – you give up your home, however bad it may be, and whatever financial support the partner may have provided. If you have no income you will have to apply for welfare. If so – and you haven’t been there – be clear – is is not enough to take care of a family.

    If perhaps you were married to someone considered highly successful and involved in the community, you most likely lose your standing in the community along with access to joint assets, until a court provides access. And court — you will have to steel yourself to go through many court hearings. All this need to stand on your own two feet comes after you have most likely been told over and over by the husband/boyfriend that you are bad/stupid/useless and no one will believe you.

    Whoever you are, you have to face the aftereffects of your decision to leave over and over – as you struggle to rebuild a life. It’s a bit like the one day at a time motto of AA — all of the conflicting feelings won’t just go away, but get relived for most women.

    SO with all of the baggage to carry, it is actually remarkable that so many women DO leave awful relationships and start new lives

  • September 17, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    This article simply doesn’t dig deep enough into an explanation given the scope of society moralizing issues as character defects when most everything comes down to basic human needs not being met.

    • September 17, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      I agree that there is more depth to explore, but in a 400-700 word blog post there’s only so much one ground can cover and this wasn’t meant to be an in depth exploration so much as a challenge to the typical lay response to IPV. I’m not sure what you mean that everything comes down to basic human needs not being met. Can you explain?

  • September 17, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I am trying to go on after being a domestic violence victum, its very hard,today is my 48th wedding anniversary I’m going to try and make it on my own but its very hard. I cry alot, am angry alot, funny how family starts out helping now not as supportive, I will try hard to overcome this situation but its not easy and hurts alot.

  • September 17, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    just wondering why the images were guinea fowl? I have them and love them, but can’t see the connection to abuse.

    • September 18, 2014 at 2:39 am

      Good question! I did the series because it’s not possible for most people to tell what the first image is, but I think it’s human nature to guess. I think we do the same with domestic violence and thought it might be a reminder that we often don’t have the full picture.

      • September 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm

        oh, I see! that’s actually a great metaphor. for those of us who raise guineas — or have experience with abuse — we recognize it right away, no matter how brief the glimpse or ambiguous the hints. nice.

  • September 18, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Sarah. When our thoughts compromise the equal playing field of the basic needs we all have, conflict doesn’t resolve into shame and violent patterns. Not meeting our basic needs causes many painful feelings. Over time these feelings form patterns from which our behavior choices arise. Fulfilling basic needs like acceptance, self worth,consideration, emotional and physical safety would change the dynamics of violence into something more compassionate. Marshal Rosenberg,PH.D. has written many books and has devoted his life to this subject he calls Non Violent Communication:a Language of Life. The Gandhi institute is another excellent resource. Thank for the opportunity to further explain myself.

    • September 18, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      You are welcome–I’m always happy to learn more. I’ve been wanting to read that book and it sounds like an interesting theory. I have found though, that no one explanation holds “the key” to explain something as complex as violence. I agree that if we had a world where people’s needs for acceptance and safety were met it would be less violent, but I don’t think that all violence would cease.
      I now see that you were saying that my article was wanting because it didn’t discuss the etiology of interpersonal violence. I agree that that would be a great topic for a future post!

  • September 19, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Twenty years ago I finally left my violent abusive husband after 7 years of mental and physical torture. I was in so many women’s shelters I cant count them all. I was like all the women in those shelters that are devastated from the actions of the spouse/boyfriend because at first you did love them. If not already soon it will follow, these boyfriends and husbands have planted the “no one else wants you”, “you cant make it without me” “I am the only one that truly loves you” “it was you that made me mad” lines.

    The battered woman hangs on to hope. The hope of the “changed” bf/husband that promises to never hit or threaten her again after he has already taken her pride, and self esteem and as in my case having no support from family members leaving the shelters going back to the familiar environment after a few days or weeks was welcomed but didn’t last long until another beating.

    It is extremely overwhelming {I know.. I have been there many times} to think about how to start a new life, get a place to live, get a car, get a job, find safe childcare, and live safely with my children. oldblackdog is correct, the threat is real, my ex threatened to kill me if I left and meant it.

    I went into hiding, my children are grown now but I live with panic and ptsd that I take medication for. I am forced to live with the memories that do not go away, anything, a smell, a sound, seeing something that reminded me of those years is still present.

    It is a very difficult trap that women struggle to leave. Self esteem, pride, courage, self worth to name a few is completely stripped away. If they have children leaving for a new safe start is much more difficult for her especially if there is no support from family and friends.

    A friend that is a psychiatrist once told me the battered woman will leave an average of seven times, the 8th attempt to leave may be too late before he kills her.

    It’s very easy for people to say “Why doesn’t she just leave?” when its never been a situation they have had association with. It is not the either/or as simple as that as the general society thinks it is.

    Women and Men stay with their abusive spouses for many reasons, often for the kids and no support from family or friends that are willing to help so they turn their heads the other way it’s not their problem. Mental abusive is can be as bad if not worse than the physical. Mental abuse can wear you down to the point of inner extreme isolation.

  • September 19, 2014 at 9:44 am

    We who are not in abusive relationships find it hard to understand why an abused woman stays with an abuser. I sought the answer by attending seminars, reading books and talking to survivors.
    I came to the conclusion that for a married woman who has been forced into a total dependency relationship was facing the hardest decision a woman could possibly face.
    It was like many other things in life. We take baby steps until we are confident we can achieve a specific goal.
    The baby steps for an abused spouse is they leave, learn a bit, return, leave, learn a bit more and eventually, after an average of six attempts to leave, have learnt enough and built up enough confidence to take the final step and do not go back.If you can locate a song by Faith Hill titled “I would be stronger than that” get it. It is about how one woman cannot comprehend why her abused friend stays with the abuser.
    You can find the lyrics at http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/faithhill/iwouldbestrongerthanthat.html

  • September 19, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I stayed for 36 years, because of the fear of being alone (abandonment issues, also) It wasn’t until I found the book that saved my life (The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans) that I could begin the journey to freedom.

    Because of what I wrote about my life, I won a scholarship at age 60 and am a Sophomore (sociall work) at 67!

    My goal is to speak on National television regarding my passion to bring about public awareness of verbal abuse.

    I presented my paper, Society’s Hidden Pandemic, Verbal Abuse, Precursor to Physical Violence and a Form of Biochemical Assault at my State’s Counseling Association….no degree, but a lifetime of abuse and years of research has made me an expert in the subject.

    Did you know that with verbal abuse (alone) that the brain can physically change? A researcher at Harvard Medical School sent me slides.

    If anyone is interested in my paper, I would be glad to send it: carleton@oakland.edu

    I have continually written Oprah, celebrities for over 10 years in order to speak on t v….I will never stop.

    Society asks the wrong question (why don’t you just leave) and in doing so, further abuses the abused. Sadly, most do NOT want to know why a woman stays and chooses to stay ignorant, instead of finding out why.

    I am also a moderator of an abused survivors’ group and haven’t met any woman who doesn’t have many physical illness. Every time we are under stress, the body releases cortisol and cortisol damages the immune system.

  • September 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Perhaps one of the major reasons,as in my case,is the economy.Plus he brought home a 61 pound dog.I love animals and he also is well aware how scarce housing is let alone for a 61 pound dog.I have tried for 3 years working with the local domestic abuse shelter,the local police and the medical community.Plus I try to leave and amazing things happen with my car.So I checked into rentals,the cheapest company wants $200 upfront.This one particular one picks up which is wonderful when I get the opportunety.Blaming the victim is sensless.I have heard ,”just leave” and go where I ask?The local shelters are full and people are on waiting lists.Plus I am disabled,which creates more problems.I do not have the financial resources for a lawyer and free help through the shelter I do not qualify for..I would have to be homeless,due to budget cuts the state changed the qualifications.Yes under stress I get sick right now I have pneumonia..

  • November 3, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Working with the local domestic abuse shelter, the police,and the medical community has been futile.I am in contact with the county housing agency and the city housing agency..one rental property owner told me they did not take pets,I said well my counselor said all she has to do is write a letter saying the dog is a necessity .. I was told there was nothing available and the owner hung up on me….so you see how I am in a crappy bind..oh I could just leave but but have no where to leave to..as stated before the shelters are full and there are waiting lists…so why not kick him out and stay? Because I have this crabby neighbor that yells at me all the time..I tried to approach him and his wife and they just walk away..I went to he police who said to call them when he yells but by the time they get here it turns into he said she said …any ideas folks???

    • November 4, 2014 at 2:54 am

      I’m sorry you’re in such a difficult situation. It’s clear you have been working hard to try to resolve it. Unfortunately I can’t give specific clinical advice in the comments section. It sounds like you have a counselor you’ve been working with so all I can recommend is to continue to work with her.

  • March 6, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    I’m in an emotional / psychological abusive relationship. There is occasional physical abuse but it takes the form of, “Oops, sorry I dropped that, why was your foot there? It was an accident.” It took me a really long time to understand the dynamic that was occurring so by the time I realized his promises to improve, his claims of valuing me and our marriage, and his apologies were insincere and empty words, I was just broken. Depressed, ill, and eventually financially dependent.

    People who are not in this type of situation have no idea how power hungry abusers are and how far they’ll go in their vindictive, spiteful and punishing ways. It’s like living with an alien monster dressed in a human meat suit. It’s difficult to conceive the way they think and process information and emotions. They look like us, they talk us but they are definitely not us.

    I have come to the conclusion that two of the mainreasons people say, “Why doesn’t she leave?” with such disgust and derision is because our U.S. society values men over women and strength over weakness. Women in abusive relationships are perceived as weak and people sneer at the weakness they perceive. It’s why the men have the ability so often to sway family members, friends, lawyers, courts, ect.

    I’ve noticed that a woman who has left an abusive relationship and has become successful is lauded and cheered but a woman currently in an abusive relationship is disgusting like our confidence and self esteem hasn’t been shredded enough. Is it any wonder why women have such a difficult time leaving?


The discussion section is closed to new comments for this blog.